Did you start out today by checking messages/emails? Or did you start with your most important task of the day?
If it’s the latter, give yourself a nice pat on the back! If it’s the former, read on.
If you started the day by checking your email, then you were (perhaps unintentionally) dragged into other people’s priorities. And it may be hard to recover. Have you found time in the rest of your day to work on those most important tasks? I’m guessing maybe not. I call this “letting the day happen to you”.
Even if you only checked email and didn’t start answering/processing email, your focus has been pulled away from your top priorities of the day. You may be working on your priorities (in the best case scenario), but in the back of your brain, the priorities of others are weighing on your mind, stealing your focus, and ensuring that you’re not as focused as you could be on the task at hand.
Even if you are using a task system and diligently prioritizing, if you start the day with email, and check email all day long, then you are likely going to be pulled in many directions that seem urgent. But probably aren’t.
Instead, if you start your day by “eating the frog” and doing your most important work before email/messages you’ll be able to accomplish what you set out to do AND be responsive to others.
Make sure you are using a single trusted system for your tasks, so that you know what your priorities and intentions are and can weigh incoming items against your plan.
Set aside the first hour of the day to do deep focus work (before checking email/messages). In most cases, whether you respond to someone at 9am or 10am isn’t going to make much difference.
Use the strategy of time-blocking to block off deep focus time for important work, and to block off a few times a day when you’ll process your email.
And if you’re skeptical, try it out for a week and see how it feels! I’m going to bet you’ll be surprised by how much you accomplish.